The following are excerpts from the answers that Vladimir Putin gave to questions from political analysts attending the plenary session of the Valdai International Discussion Club's annual meeting. The Q&As were moderated by the Russian intellectual Fyodor Lukyanov, who serves as research director at the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club,.
During the Q&As, Putin tackled Russia-U.S. Relations and the INF Treaty. Commenting on Washington's accusations that Russia is violating the treaty, Putin noted: "When we agreed to eliminate the intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, the deal concerned Pershing missiles, which are land-based, and our missile systems. Incidentally, when our intermediate- and shorter-range missiles were eliminated, our chief engineer committed suicide, because he believed that it was betrayal of his country…
"However, the U.S. still has both airborne and sea-based missiles. In fact, this was unilateral disarmament for the Soviet side as well, but now we have both airborne and sea-based missiles… We believe that we have only balanced out the situation. If someone does not like it and wishes to withdraw from the treaty, for example, our American partners, our response would be immediate, I would like to repeat this warning. Immediate and reciprocal." The Russian President then added: "However, we have complied and we will comply with our old treaties, as long as our partners comply as well."
Responding to questions on the Middle East, Putin discussed the Syrian crisis and the de-escalation zones. Putin said: "I do not want [the de-escalation zones] to be a blueprint to partitioning Syria, but on the contrary, a situation where, once the de-escalation zones are in place, the people who control these zones would start making contact with Damascus, with the government." He then discussed the recent visit by Saudi King Salman to Russia and Saudi-Russia relations. Putin commented: "I was also asked whether we are afraid that Saudi Arabia will be with the United States again? We are afraid of nothing! What is there for us to be afraid of? You know, it is Saudi Arabia that should be afraid, so to speak, that the Americans will bring democratization to Saudi Arabia. This is what they should fear. But what is there for us to fear? We already have democracy. We will keep working."
Putin at the meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Putin: 'It Is No Accident That The Torah Calls Giving Up Territory A Great Sin. Both Territory And The Wealth Of The Land, People – Those All Remain The Most Crucial Factors'
Fyodor Lukyanov: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I would like to ask you to clarify something. You mentioned science and technology as perhaps the most crucial factor today. Yet even we, the current living generations, remember outbursts of euphoria over the importance of technology, and later that euphoria faded somehow and it became clear that what has always been, the fundamentals – territory, demography – are still eternal, and while technologies are adapted somehow, the fundamentals remain most crucial.
Why do you think it has the potential now to be a game changer?
Vladimir Putin: The things you mentioned do remain eternal, fundamental values. It is no accident that the Torah calls giving up territory a great sin. Both territory and the wealth of the land, people – those all remain the most crucial factors.
But today there has been a qualitative change. The rate of change is so high. [Sberbank CEO Herman] Gref must have told you (he can tell such tales till dawn) that it is becoming plain to see – science and technology is becoming the decisive factor in the area of military security and international politics. Everything is happening so fast, and the changes are irreversible.
Putin: 'We Are Not Going Back To The 1950s [Cuban Missile Crisis]'
Dmtry Suslov (Source: Valdaiclub.com)
Dmitry Suslov: "Mr. President, Dmitry Suslov, Higher School of Economics, Valdai Club.
"I would like to carry on with the nuclear topic, or, to be exact, to emphasize the sector where, as I see it, there is destruction but no creation yet. I mean arms control, first of all nuclear arms.
"You were right to say that the military and strategic situation in the world is changing fundamentally, or has already changed. This includes the precision-guided non-nuclear munitions, as well as the missile and even cyber defense, which is considered a combat sphere today. However, instead of developing a concept of the new international strategic stability or adapting the old rules of arms control to the new situation, we, unfortunately, see only the destruction of the old rules without the formulation of new ones.
"You were right to say that 2002, when the U.S. withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, was like opening Pandora's box. Unfortunately, we have to admit that Russia is taking part in this dismantling process, as well.
"You have mentioned the plutonium agreement; I mean the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. Last year Russia suspended it. The process has gone so far that the 1987 INF Treaty [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty] is in question, and the U.S. Congress not only allows the Trump Administration to withdraw from it, but even approve a budget bill that would force them to produce the intermediate-range missile. And the extension of New START is also questionable.
"It turns out that by choosing this way we, in fact, are regressing back to the 1950s, which, as you know, ended in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
"Are we ready for this situation, taking into account the global strategic situation, which is more difficult and complex than in the 1950s? What must Russia and all of us do to provide for this evolutionary transition to new strategic stability?"
Vladimir Putin: "We are not going back to the 1950s. Attempts have been made to push us back there. You have mentioned some agreements. There are three agreements in which we have suspended our membership. Why did we do so? Because our American partners are not doing anything.
"We cannot do everything alone. We took a unilateral decision to eliminate our chemical weapons, and we have eliminated them, as I said in my opening remarks. But our American partners said they would not do the same yet, because they do not have the money for this.
"They have no money? The American mint is printing dollars, but they have no money. We found the money to build plants for the destruction of chemical weapons. I believe we built eight such plants, investing huge funds in construction and in training personnel. It was a titanic job. We are now thinking about other ways to use these facilities.
"As I have said when speaking about plutonium, we have created a scheme for turning weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide fuel. It took money and effort as well, for the matter concerns investment. We have built a reactor and coordinated the method for destroying this plutonium with the Americans. But then they took a unilateral step in violation of the agreement without even notifying us of this as partners should. How did we know this? We learned about this from a budget submission to the Congress. They asked for millions of dollars to finance a new utilization method and postponed the process for an unspecified period.
"No, this is not how it should be. Under this new American method, plutonium can be converted back to weapons-grade. We have not withdrawn from these agreements, but we have suspended them, expecting a normal reaction from our partners. We hope they will resume the negotiations.
"As for the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, I fully agree with you. I have said many times, and others have too – all experts agree on this – that this treaty was the cornerstone of international security in the sphere of strategic arms. But no, years of negotiations with our American friends have failed to convince them to remain within the limits of this treaty.
"Now we hear that New START does not work either. We are not going to withdraw from it, although something may not work with us either. This is always a part of some kind of compromise. However, it is better to have some agreements rather than none at all. If we understand this, we will do everything to meet our commitments, and we will meet them.
"Now back to the INF Treaty, on medium and short-range missiles. They always said, well, not always, but recently we have been hearing many accusations about Russia violating this treaty by cooking up something. Maybe we would be tempted to do just that if we had no airborne and sea-based missiles. Now we have them. The U.S. had such missiles, and we did not.
"When we agreed to eliminate the intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, the deal concerned Pershing missiles, which are land-based, and our missile systems.
"Incidentally, when our intermediate- and shorter-range missiles were eliminated, our chief engineer committed suicide, because he believed that it was betrayal of his country. This is a tragic story; let us change it.
"However, the U.S. still has both airborne and sea-based missiles. In fact, this was unilateral disarmament for the Soviet side as well, but now we have both airborne and sea-based missiles. You can see how effective the Kalibr missiles are: from the Mediterranean Sea, from the Caspian Sea, from the air or from submarines, whatever you wish.
"Moreover, besides Kalibr, with an operational range of 1,400 km, we have other airborne missile systems, very powerful ones with an operational range of 4,500 km. We believe that we have only balanced out the situation. If someone does not like it and wishes to withdraw from the treaty, for example, our American partners, our response would be immediate, I would like to repeat this warning. Immediate and reciprocal.
"However, we have complied and we will comply with our old treaties, as long as our partners comply as well."
Putin: '[Magnitsky's Death] Seemed Strange And Completely Unexpected For Us'
Pyotr Dutkevich: "Pyotr Dutkevich, Carleton University, Canada…
"At the beginning of October, Canada joined the Magnitsky Act. Many countries have announced that they are ready to support this law, too. Are you not worried about the consequences of this process? Would you mind commenting on this fact?"
Vladimir Putin: "When the situation with Magnitsky, who lost his life in prison, occurred, I was not working in foreign policy or security. I was Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, but, of course, I knew what was going on, I observed and discussed this with Dmitry Medvedev, who was the President back then. This seemed strange and completely unexpected for us that such a tragic event, and the death of a person whatever he was charged with is always tragic, became the source of such political games.
"What do I think about what you have just said, about Canada joining or wanting to join, or about somebody else wanting to do it? These are all some very unconstructive political games over things, which are in essence not what they look like, to be treated in such a way or to fuss about so much. What lies underneath these events? Underneath are the criminal activities of an entire gang led by one particular man, I believe Browder is his name, who lived in the Russian Federation for ten years as a tourist and conducted activities, which were on the verge of being illegal, by buying Russian company stock without any right to do so, not being a Russian resident, and by moving tens and hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country and hence avoiding any taxes not only here but in the United States as well.
"According to open sources, I mean American open sources, please look up Ziff Brothers, the company Mr Browder was connected with, which has been sponsoring the Democratic Party and, substantially less, the Republican Party during recent years. I think the latest transfer, in the open sources I mean, was $1,200,000 for the Democratic Party. This is how they protect themselves.
"In Russia, Mr. Browder was sentenced in his absence to 9 years in prison for his scam. However, no one is working on it. Our prosecution has already turned to the appropriate U.S. agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General for certain information so we can work together on this. However, there is simply no response. This is just used to blow up more anti-Russian hysteria. Nobody wants to look into the matter, into what is actually beneath it. At the bottom of it, as usual, is crime, deception and theft."
Putin: 'Nixon Has A Head, While Mr. Kozyrev, Unfortunately, Has Not. He Has A Cranium But No Head As Such'; Catalonia's Independence Is An Internal Spanish Issue
Rein Muellerson [Research Professor at Tallinn University, Estonia]: "… My question is to President Putin. In your speech, you mentioned Catalonia. My observations suggest that, normally, independence is achieved then and there, where some major powers or at least regional players are interested in this independence or in case no one pays attention to this.
"In your speech in March 2014 with respect to Crimea, where, by the way, I was a month ago and I must say I really enjoyed it, you cited the advisory opinion of the International Court on Kosovo. The declaration of Kosovo's independence indeed violates international law. The aerial bombings of Serbia due to Kosovo were also in breach of international law.
"It seems to me that Kosovo opened up Pandora's box. The independence of the Kurds in Iraq meets the aspirations of no one but the Kurds and perhaps also the Israeli interests. However, this is not enough. The whole of Europe and the European Union are worried about Catalan independence. Madrid is using force, relatively moderate force, against supporters of an independent Catalonia.
"My question to you is as follows. Apart from following the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, how could Russia help resolve similar conflicts so as, on the one hand, not to encourage the 'parade of sovereignties,' while, on the other hand, helping ethnic groups and minorities, whose aspirations are not met by the authorities? What would be Russia's position in such cases?
"One thing I cannot help mentioning. You spoke of the 'turbulent' 90s and I recalled how [the first foreign minister of Russia under President Boris Yeltsin] Andrei Kozyrev once told President Nixon that Russia had no national interests, only common human interests. Nixon shook his head. Thank you."
Vladimir Putin: "This shows that Nixon has a head, while Mr. Kozyrev, unfortunately, has not. He has a cranium but no head as such.
"As for the 'parade of sovereignties,' as you said, and our attitude towards this… Actually, I believe, on a global scale, the creation of mono-ethnic states is not a panacea against possible conflicts, but just the opposite. Because after various partitions and sovereignties, the creation of mono-ethnic states might lead to clashes in the fight for the realization of the interests of the newly established mono-ethnic states. That is what is likely to happen.
"This is why people who live in a unified state within common boundaries have a greater chance that their state will pursue a balanced policy. Look at Russia. Muslims constitute nearly 10 percent of our population, which is a lot. They are not foreigners or migrants. Russia is their only homeland, and they see it as their homeland. What has this encouraged us to do? I suggested that we seek observer status at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. This influences our domestic and foreign policies, and makes our policy better balanced and attentive to this part of the international community. The same is true for other countries.
"As for the ruling of the UN court, I have it. I did not cite it so as not to waste your time. I read the ruling because I knew that we would touch on this matter. You are experts, and so you know everything about it. However, I would like to remind you. On November 8, 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 63/3. Question: Does the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo's temporary institutions comply with international law? This question was forwarded to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
"On July 22, 2010, after two years of deliberations, the Hague Court issued an Advisory Opinion that the declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on February 17, 2008 did not violate international law. The court ruling concerns not just Kosovo, but also the applicability of international law to the declaration of independence by any part of any state in principle. In this sense, you are absolutely right that this broad interpretation does not apply to Kosovo. It was a ruling that opened Pandora's box. Yes, you are absolutely right about this. Bull's eye.
"Look at what the court ruling of July 22, 2010, says. Paragraph 79: 'The practice of States in these latter cases does not point to the emergence in international law of a new rule prohibiting the making of a declaration of independence in such cases.' Paragraph 81: 'No general prohibition against unilateral declarations of independence may be inferred from the practice of the [UN] Security Council.' Paragraph 84: 'the Court considers that general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence. Accordingly, it concludes that the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law.' Here it is, in black and white.
"How all the Western countries pushed for it and pressurized this International Court in the Hague! We know for certain that the U.S. had a written recommendation for the International Court. The State Department wrote, 'The principle of territorial integrity does not exclude the establishment of new states in the territory of existing states.' Below: 'Declarations of independence can (and often do) violate domestic legislation. However, this does not mean that it is a violation of international law.' Further, 'In many cases, including Kosovo, the circumstances of the Declaration of Independence can mean fundamental respect of international law on the part of the new state.'
"Germany: 'This is a matter of peoples' right to self-determination. International law pertaining to the territorial integrity of states does not apply to such peoples.' They decided to declare independence, well, good for them. And the integrity principles do not apply to this state.
"The United Kingdom: 'Secession, or the declaration of independence, does not contradict international law in itself.'
"France: 'It (international law) does not allow, but does not forbid it (secession or separation) in general.' So here you are.
"Then there was the reaction to this Court ruling. Here is what Ms. Clinton wrote (somebody may have worked with her) after the ruling: 'Kosovo is an independent state, and its territory is inviolable. We call on all states not to become overly focused on Kosovo's status and make their own constructive contribution to supporting peace and stability in the Balkans. We urge the countries that have not yet recognized Kosovo to do so.'
"Germany: 'The consultative ruling of the International Court confirms our legal assessment of the legitimacy of Kosovo's declaration of independence. It reinforces our opinion that the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kosovo are undeniable.'
"France: 'The independence of Kosovo is irreversible. The ruling of the International Court, which terminated the legal debates on the matter, has become a milestone and will allow all parties to dedicate themselves to other important issues to be resolved.'
"Now, 'other important issues' have arisen today, and today, when these 'other important issues' have arisen, including in Catalonia, nobody likes it. Nobody! This is exactly what I called double standards. This example is the Pandora's box that has been opened, and the genie that was let out of the bottle.
"What is our position on this case? I said, I was saying, if you listened carefully, I was saying that we hoped that the problem would be resolved based on Spanish legislation and Constitution. I believe this is the end of it. The end of it. However, of course, we have to be careful in such issues and very sensitive to everything that is going on. We hope that everything will be resolved within the framework of democratic institutions and procedures; there will be no more political prisoners and so on. However, this is an internal issue of a country. I think this is enough…"
Fyodor Lukyanov: "For those of you who may have forgotten, President Putin is a lawyer by training, so debating him may be a challenge."
Putin: 'We Do Not Have So-Called Global Media, Mass Media With Global Reach. This Is The Monopoly Of The Anglo-Saxon World, Primarily The United States'
Margarita Simonyan (Source: Twitter)
Margarita Simonyan [editor-in-chief of the Russia Today television channel]: "…Thank you, Mr. President, for your shocking story about the American flags at our nuclear facilities…
"However, if I may, I would like to talk about issues that concern me. You may have heard that Russia Today and Sputnik – our media working abroad – have been subjected recently not just to pressure, but real harassment at their place of work.
"As recently as two days ago, Hillary Clinton said that the alleged Russian interference in the elections, for which we are primarily blamed (half of the CIA report on this topic was about Russia Today and Sputnik, and my name was mentioned 27 times in it) is comparable to the 9/11 attacks.
"We are required to register as foreign agents. As we know from the media, the FBI opened an investigation into our activities. Our journalists have come under incredible pressure: every day they read about how they will never be able to get a job anywhere else. Yesterday, the Foreign Office of Great Britain chewed out deputies who continue to appear on our broadcasts. What will happen next is anyone's guess.
"A year ago, people from the State Department told me that they respect freedom of speech, and as long as no restrictive measures are applied to U.S. media in Russia, no such measures will be applied to us. However, these measures are being applied to us already, at a time when huge numbers of American and other media, including Russian language media, continue to operate in Russia. I can only praise them, as they are doing a great job and have vast budgets that are tens of times larger than those available to our media.
"You may be surprised, but by some criteria, such as citations in social media, Radio Liberty ranks first among all Russian radio stations. You once joked that you have no one to talk to since Mahatma Gandhi died. Everyone had a good laugh back then, but in the end this is exactly how it looks – we are in a situation where Russia is a more democratic country than the countries that taught us democracy. Russia maintains several positions. One of them is that our response should be proportionate, and only such a response will force them to leave us be. Another position is that we should turn the other cheek and take the high road. May I ask you, what is your position in this regard?"
Vladimir Putin: "First, about the situation around our information resources, such as Russia Today and Sputnik. Their capacity cannot compare with what our colleagues have in the U.S., in Europe; they simply cannot compare. We do not have so-called global media, mass media with global reach. This is the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon world, primarily the United States.
"Indeed, we have been told all along that it is absurd and even undemocratic to pressure any lawfully functioning media outlets, to close or persecute them, to exert pressure on journalists. There is only one democratic way to fight things one does not like, for both the authorities and the opposition: to express your opinion, but to express it so vividly, colorfully and brilliantly that people would believe you and accept your point of view, follow you and stand by you and support your position. All the rest is undemocratic.
"What we see happening around our media now – I repeat, they are far less powerful than the U.S. or British media – I simply do not know how to describe this. 'Confusion' is too mild. They have turned everything upside down.
"Regarding interference or non-interference: everyone knows, the whole world knows what the British or American media do. They directly and constantly influence internal political processes in almost all countries. How else are we to interpret what the media do, especially those outlets that work in, say, the political segment of the media?
"They do influence things, of course, by expressing a certain point of view – in this case, we are talking about Russia's point of view. And even so, they do not always take Russia's point of view. I cannot monitor them all the time, but sometimes I see what Russia Today broadcasts. Its team includes journalists from various countries: Americans, and British, I believe, and Germans, too. They do excellent work. Really talented people. I sometimes marvel at the courage and talent they possess to lay everything out so clearly, precisely and fearlessly – my hat is off to them. Apparently, this is the key to Russia Today and Sputnik's success, but it is also what they are hated for; anyway, it has nothing to do with democracy.
"Now about 'turning the other cheek.' I have already spoken about our nuclear facilities. It would seem we have disclosed everything we have, there is nowhere else to search, so we expected our American partners to do the same, well, at least to show some consideration for our interests, so that we would be full-fledged partners. As you can see, this is not the case, and even the opposite is true: as soon as they realized that our nuclear sector needs additional investment and modernization, that our missile technology is growing obsolete, that there are other problems – aha, who would consider a weak partner? No one even talks to them or considers their interests anymore.
"Therefore, in this case, all we can do is mirror their actions and rather quickly at that. As soon as we see any moves that limit the activities of our media in any way, a proportionate response will follow."
Putin On The Astana Process: 'Thanks To The Stand Taken By Turkey, Iran And… The Syrian Government, We Were Able To Narrow The Gaps In The Sides' Positions On The Key Issue Of Ending The Violence And Creating De-escalation Zones'
Erlan Karin [Kazakh political analyst]: "… Mr. President, we met here last year at a time when the situation in Syria, in particular in Aleppo, had deteriorated. Early this year, we launched the Astana process to settle the Syrian crisis. Delegates from various sides of the conflict and representatives from the guarantor countries – Russia, Turkey and Iran – met for the first time for negotiations in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Since then we have achieved some results, have held several rounds of talks and have signed a number of documents.
"How would you describe the intermediate results of the Astana process?
"One more thing. These events have cast a new light on the crisis in the Middle East. I am referring to the Kurdish referendum in northern Iraq, which you have mentioned, the military operation in Kirkuk and changes in the overall military situation in Syria. What are the prospects for a settlement in Syria? What do you think about the situation in the Middle East as a whole?"
Vladimir Putin: "The first thing I would like to do regarding the Syrian settlement and the Astana process is to thank President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev for making it possible for us and the other participants of this process to meet in Astana. Kazakhstan is not just a place where we meet; it is a very suitable venue because Kazakhstan maintains neutrality. It does not interfere in the complicated regional processes and is respected as an intermediary.
"I would like to note that at a certain point President Nazarbayev took responsibility for preventing the parties to the conflict and the negotiations from leaving the table. It was a very positive thing to do, and we are sincerely grateful to him for this.
"As for where this process stands, it is gaining positive momentum. There have been ups and downs, about which I will speak later, but overall, the process is proceeding positively. Thanks to the stand taken by Turkey, Iran and, of course, the Syrian Government, we were able to narrow the gaps in the sides' positions on the key issue of ending the violence and creating de-escalation zones. It is the most significant result we have achieved in Syria over the past two years, particularly as part of the Astana process.
"I have to note that other countries, including the United States, are greatly contributing; even though they are not participating in the talks in Astana directly, they are influencing these processes behind the scenes. We maintain stable cooperation with our American partners in this sphere, on this track, even though not without disputes. However, there are more positive than negative elements in our cooperation.
"So far, we have managed to agree on many issues, including the southern de-escalation zone, where Israeli and Jordanian interests are also present. Of course, this process could not have been what it is now without the positive impact of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, as well as many other countries, small but important, including, by the way, Qatar.
"What are the prospects? There is every reason to believe – I will put it cautiously – that we will finish off the terrorists in the short term, but that is no cause for joy, for saying that terrorism is over and done with. Because, first, terrorism as a phenomenon is deeply rooted – it is rooted in the injustice of today's world, the raw deal that many nations and ethnic and religious groups get, and the lack of comprehensive education in entire countries across the world. The lack of a normal, proper, basic education is fertile soil for terrorism. Therefore, if we finish off the pockets of terrorist resistance in Syria, this certainly does not mean the threat to Syria, the region and the world as a whole is gone – absolutely not. On the contrary, you always have to stay alert.
"The rough-going process between the opposition and the government is also a source of concern. The process is under way but is moving very sluggishly, feebly; the parties to the conflict are very distrustful of each other. I hope that it will be possible to overcome this. Based on de-escalation zones, we hope to move on to the next stage. There is an idea to call a congress of the Syrian people, bringing together all ethnic and religious groups, the government and the opposition.
"If this could be done, also with support from guarantor countries and even major powers outside the region – Saudi Arabia, the United States and Egypt – that would be the next, additional but very important step toward a political settlement. And then perhaps toward drafting a new Constitution, but it is still early to talk about that. This is roughly the plan."
Putin: I Do Not Want The De-Escalation Zones To Be A Blueprint To Partitioning Syria
Fyodor Lukyanov: "Mr. President, will the de-escalation zones not lead to the division of Syria?"
Vladimir Putin: "Such a threat does exist, but as I said earlier, I do not want this to be a blueprint to partitioning Syria, but on the contrary, a situation where, once the de-escalation zones are in place, the people who control these zones would start making contact with Damascus, with the government.
"Actually, this is what is already happening in many places. For instance, in southern Damascus, on a small territory controlled by the armed opposition, people go to work in Damascus and return home every day. You see, life is encouraging communication.
"I strongly hope that this practice will evolve in other de-escalation zones as well and that gradually, step by step cooperation will begin on the day-to-day level, which, in my opinion, is bound to grow into long-term political agreements."
Putin: 'I Was Asked Whether We Are Afraid That Saudi Arabia Will Be With The U.S. Again. We Are Afraid Of Nothing! …It Is Saudi Arabia That Should Be Afraid… That The U.S. Will Bring Democratization To Saudi Arabia'
Ebtesam al-Ketbi: "Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, Professor of Political Science and Head of the Emirates Policy Centre.
"Mr. President, it is obvious now that Russia in the Middle East is a really successful country. And a master of the game, especially in Syria. But in the wake of King Salman's visit, which the Saudi describe as a historical visit, I want to ask you: what is the strategic shift in Russian policy towards the Gulf States? Or is this just something that will not last forever, taking into consideration that GCC used to be a traditional alliance of the U.S., and this is also another success of Russia by pulling the Saudi towards Russia? Is this a real shift or you still do not trust the Gulf States?"
Vladimir Putin: "The world is changing, all countries are changing and relations between states are changing. There is nothing unusual in this. In fact, back in Soviet days, Saudi Arabia's relations with the Soviet Union were fairly good, but there were constraints of a purely ideological nature. Today there are none and we have nothing that would fundamentally divide us. Now, what can unite us with Saudi Arabia or countries in the region? Actually, I can see absolutely no reason for these dividing lines. I have a very good personal, almost friendly relationship with almost all the leaders of these states.
"The visit by the King of Saudi Arabia was a great honor for us. It was a historic event indeed, if only because it was the first visit by a King of Saudi Arabia to Russia. In and of itself, this shows Saudi Arabia's attitude toward building a relationship with Russia.
"We have absolutely no problem with the fact that these countries, including Saudi Arabia, have their own special interests, historical ties and allied relations with, among others, the United States. Why should this worry us? This does not mean that we are forbidden from working with Saudi Arabia; we will do so. As for Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, it is up to them to decide who they prefer to work with and on what issues.
"Russia is demonstrating stability, predictability and reliability in its foreign policy. And I believe that this appeals to our partners. In addition, we have shared economic interests – importantly, interests of a global nature. Now, we have coordinated our position on the energy market with OPEC nations, above all with Saudi Arabia and the [oil] price has been stable, at over $50 [per barrel]. We consider this a fair price; it is quite suitable for us. This is the result of joint efforts.
"There are also other results. The first opportunities have emerged for defense technology cooperation. Yes, there are multi-billion contracts with the United States. Very well! Do you know what our people say? 'The chicken pecks one grain at a time.' Our ties will expand slowly and perhaps these contracts will grow.
"I was also asked whether we are afraid that Saudi Arabia will be with the United States again? We are afraid of nothing! What is there for us to be afraid of? You know, it is Saudi Arabia that should be afraid, so to speak, that the Americans will bring democratization to Saudi Arabia. This is what they should fear. But what is there for us to fear? We already have democracy. We will keep working. (Laughter.)"
 See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7143, Putin's Speech At The Meeting Of The Valdai International Discussion Club: '[The West's] Policy Based On Self-Assurance, Egotism And Claims To Exceptionalism Will Not Bring Any Respect Or True Greatness' Part I, October 23, 2017.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7125, Washington Accuses Moscow Of Violating The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, October 10, 2017.
 On October 5, 2017, Saudi King Salman met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader described the meeting as "substantive, meaningful and confidential." Putin stated: "This is the first-ever visit by Saudi Arabia's king to Russia in the history of our relations… It is a very significant event." He then added: "I am certain that your visit will give a good impetus to the development of our inter-state relations."
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7124, Russian media Outlet Topwar.ru: 'Saudi Arabia's King Flew To Moscow To Surrender To The Mercy Of The Winner', October 9, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7123, Reactions To Saudi King's Visit To Moscow - RIA: Putin Is The 'New Lord Of The Middle East', October 8, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7120, Russian-Saudi Relations - Russian Expert: Russia Will Have To Talk To The Saudis From A Position Of Strength, October 6, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7122, On Russian-Saudi Relations, Russia's FM Lavrov Says: King Salman's Historic Visit To Russia Will Bring Our Cooperation To A Totally New Level, October 4, 2017.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7028, Russian Middle East Expert: KSA's Bin Salman A Friend, But A Difficult One, July 27, 2017.
 Dmitry Suslov is professor at the Higher School of Economics and program director at the Valdai Discussion Club.